Tag: Coen Brothers

It’s a Mezcla

One of the best movies of last year was the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit. Among the film’s many charms is the archaic, bizarrely formal speech of the characters. I have no idea if real people of the era said things like, “You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements” and “I do not entertain hypotheticals.” But it’s cool to imagine that they did.

Of course, Americans don’t speak like that anymore. A century later, in fact, we’re considered articulate if we keep it down to three uses of “you know” and a pair of double negatives per conversation.

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Call It

Yesterday, I posted about a bar that advertised its drink specials by slurring Hispanics.

Since we’re on the subject of sensitivity, let me ask about this year’s Oscar winner for best picture, No Country for Old Men. It was released on DVD this week.

If you haven’t seen it, you can believe the hype. It really is that good and deserves its acclaim. But I’m not going to go on about the film’s white-knuckle tension or thematic subtext or challenging conclusion. I’m not even going to dwell on Javier Bardem’s Oscar-winning performance as an unstoppable hitman (except to say that the guy is doom personified).

No, what I want to address is the fact that, in a movie with plenty of Latinos (a rarity in film), every one of them is a drug runner or cold-blooded killer or sleazy operator of some type.

So how do the Coen Brothers get away with this?

Have we given them a pass because the film is of such high quality? Or is it because most of the characters, regardless of race, are so vile that it all evens out? Perhaps it is because the movie is true to its tone and setting (drug deals on the Texas border). Or is the mere presence of artistic ambition enough to quiet rumblings of stereotyping? It’s the Coens, after all, not some schlocky exploitation artists.

Maybe it’s all of these things or none of them.

What are your theories? How does the film dodge the bullet of racism? Or does it not succeed at this, and I just haven’t noticed?

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